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[New Data] RFP Automation a Must for High-Performance Sales Teams in 2020

Every day you want to progress toward achieving positive sales performance. Most days you feel that sense of achievement, but you also see areas for improvement when it comes to productivity levels. 

In our 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, salespeople in technology, healthcare, and financial services revealed they’re working toward time management and revenue objectives with perseverance. And they realize automation is the missing link in their proposal process.

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68% of Salespeople Don’t Have Enough Time to Focus on Sales Activities

At any given moment, 101 things command a salesperson’s attention. Yet, they only want to do one thing: close the next big deal. 

In the RFPIO Responder Survey, 68% of sales teams reported they don’t have enough time in their day to focus on sales activities. When other team members ask sales to contribute to RFP responses, 10% of salespeople see this request as an ongoing challenge because they don’t think sales proposals are a priority.

Sales proposals are a foundational part of the sales process, and they are frequently undervalued due to time constraints. Today’s buyer not only expects sales proposals, they still consider these documents to be a key step in the evaluation process.

While sales proposals may seem like a formality, they are another sales tool for closing deals. The most direct benefit of proposal software is automation, allowing you to reduce manually intensive tasks and focus on producing better sales proposals in less time.

RFP Automation Gives 63% of Reps More Time to Pursue Opportunities

Salespeople choosing to automate sales proposals are winning time back in their day to pursue new business opportunities. According to the survey, 63% of sales teams are improving productivity with the time management benefits of proposal software.

Here are several ways proposal software automates tasks to save you time:

1. Project management 

Proposal software treats every proposal as a project in its own right. Artificial intelligence is changing the way teams manage and create sales proposals by taking over repetitive tasks. AI proposal management software makes it much easier to break up relevant sections, auto-identify response content, and assign questions to your subject matter experts. 

2. Content Management 

The heart and soul of any proposal software is the RFP content library — in fact, 93% of salespeople using RFPIO selected the answer library as their top feature. This is your hub for storing and organizing all of your company content, even beyond sales proposals. Reviewing content is much more systematic as well.

3. Collaboration 

Because collaboration happens within a proposal software platform, 12% of surveyed sales teams report they receive less email during the response process.

4. CRM Integrations

People and technology need to communicate to streamline your sales proposal process. Your preferred workspace is your CRM, so any proposal software you choose should integrate accordingly.

5. Business Intelligence and Analytics

To see the gaps and opportunities in your sales proposal process, you need the ability to analyze data. Dashboards and reporting capabilities provide insights into everything from win/loss analysis to proposal completion time averages. Business intelligence capabilities bring you tangible data so you understand when a new business opportunity is worth your time.

15% of Salespeople Struggle With Having Sales Content Easily Accessible 

Control+F (or, Command+F, for Mac users) is a common keyboard pathway salespeople take to locate existing sales content — such as past RFP responses, detailed product/service information, pricing sheets, customer testimonials and case studies, and other collateral and attachments. 

Another tactic involves continually tapping your company knowledge gatekeepers — your subject matter experts (SMEs) — on the shoulder every time technical questions arise. Depending on the complexity of your organization, this SME shoulder-tapping will happen quite frequently. 

When responding to an RFP, you and your SMEs reallocate valuable time creating repetitive content you’ve built together many times before. When a prospect is waiting for your email reply, you risk the chance of losing them to one of your competitors, simply by not having the answer ready when they need it.

If you’re like the 15% of salespeople from our survey looking for ways to improve sales content accessibility, I can offer some guidance. You need a searchable, AI-powered knowledge repository for accessing approved company information in one convenient place. 

Salespeople who take advantage of an RFP content library tap into a wealth of organizational knowledge for a variety of sales activities. For example, BDRs can keep the RFP content library open on their screen during discovery calls to answer any technical questions on the spot. Ultimately, responding to prospect questions quickly and confidently builds trust. 

22% of Reps Rarely or Never Audit their RFP Content Library 

What is the root cause behind inaccessible sales content? Content management. What impacts your chances of winning or losing a deal? Again, it’s content management. 

Quality content impacts the win potential of your sales proposal. To ensure content quality, you must be proactive with your RFP content library, maintaining responses through dedicated content audits. Keeping sales content accurate and current is an ongoing challenge for busy teams, as revealed in our 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey:

  • 10% of salespeople never audit their RFP response content. 
  • 12% only audit their content once a year.
  • 37% audit their answer library content quarterly.
  • 14% prefer monthly content audits.

Quarterly content audits are the frequency we recommend to most proposal management teams. If your products or services change rapidly, you may consider monthly content audits, like 14% of our customers.  

Quality proposal content is all about preparation, making sure your best responses are on-hand when you need them — not buried deep in some spreadsheet. Performing regular content audits gives you a head start when a tight proposal deadline is weighing on your shoulders. 

With optimized sales content in your answer library, you have the strongest possible foundation to work with. Using these content management techniques will speed up proposal completion time, so you can move on to other important revenue-generating activities. 

86% of Salespeople Want to Shorten the Sales Cycle to Close More Deals

“Winning the business” is the sales anthem that drives us forward. It’s no surprise that 86% of salespeople want to shorten the sales cycle to close more deals. Sales teams using proposal software to automate their response process revealed promising results.

Before implementing proposal software, 53% of sales teams spent several weeks completing sales proposals. After proposal software implementation, 39% managed to complete sales proposals in a week and 27% sped up completion time to a one-day turnaround. And, 12% of these respondents are now finishing sales proposals in between two and five hours with RFP automation.

Your time is valuable, but so is the hard work you do to win new business. Getting the best possible sales proposal out the door is only possible with effective time management. If you’re not automating your sales proposals yet, I hope you’ll consider changing your tactics.

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